Kira Kira, aka Kristín Björk Kristjánsdóttir, stands at the front of a low-lit lecture theatre. As music students file in, she plays a deep, harmonic sound over the speakers, and wafts a smouldering piece of Palo Stanto “Holy Wood” in circles, spreading its pungent aroma. The room gradually fills up with people, and atmosphere.
They’re assembling for an hour-long glimpse into Kristín’s intriguing body of work as an artist and a musician, which stretches back to the late 1990s. She begins by talking about her very first band Spúnk, moving on to describe her path through the prolific Kitchen Motors collective and founding Big Band Brútal; creating a kite symphony in Shanghai; producing the award-winning documentary ‘Amma Lo-Fi’ and, of course, her work under the Kira Kira moniker, amongst many other projects.
Now, at the start of 2016, Kristín shows no signs of slowing down. Having recently founded a new choir, Kristín discusses a forthcoming film on the theme of “the creative spark,” now in pre-production for shooting in three different countries in 2017. She’s also working on two new collaborative albums—one with LA musician Eskmo, and one mass-collaboration called ‘Kira & Friends’. “It’s very important to push yourself,” she says, to the throng. “To belong to something bigger than just yourself in a bottle.”
Conversations, organisms, waves
Later, at Stofan café, we talk over Kristín’s creative journey. I remark that all of the different interconnected projects seem to be driven along by the will to maintain a generous, plural, open-ended practise.
“Well, I’ve always created things from a place of wanting to be in conversation with the world,” says Kristín. “There’s almost a sense of responsibility there—that you’re not allowed to just be in your cave and make things, forever. It’s so important to inspire conversation and dialogue. And for me, that is the process of making things. I’ve always had a very open process—sparking something, then allowing it to find its own shape. Like an open organism that can move and grow in different directions.”
Even given her strong instincts for improvisation and experimentation, Kira Kira has distilled her work into three albums to date. The first one, ‘Skotta’, came out in 2005, and has just passed its tenth birthday. “I actually feel like another musician made that record,” she smiles. “And I mean, every cell in your body regenerates, over time. So, both physically and spiritually, I’m literally a different person. But I still have that same affection for making an immersive world of sound… it’s all very much a part of the journey. There are no regrets.”
Kristín is also very candid about the obstacles and difficulties that artists have to deal with over time. The new choir, formed from Kristín’s community of musician friends, also acts as a place where people come together and discuss where they’re at.
“That part is so important,” says Kristín. “Sometimes you really don’t know how to continue, or even why you would continue. Every artist goes through that, and it’s tough when you’re in it. It comes in waves that crash down, and rise again. It feels amazing when the wave is rising. It’s a special time, when you’ve found what you’re going to work on and you’re in the flow of it. But when you complete a project and let it out into the world, you can feel completely lost. That’s when community becomes very important.”
Building the momentum
As well as investing time in nurturing a creative support network, Kristín has recently started to expand in other directions, embracing the more business-minded aspects of being a musician.
“I put a lot of love and a tremendous amount of passion into what I make,” she explains, carefully, “but up until recently I hadn’t really focussed on creating a set-up that allowed those creations to be enjoyed by a wider group of people. For the longest time, I wanted to keep things at home and run them in a DIY, organic way, with no outside voices interfering. But the more I get to know the music business—and the world—the more I know you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. So you just make sure you don’t make bad deals. It’s perfectly possible to keep your integrity, and be wildly successful, at the same time. You just need to be a bit wise about it. And anyone can do that.”
And despite the discursive, varying nature of Kristín’s practise—which often lies between sound art, experimentation with new technologies, music performance and group improvisation—it’s the sense of warmth, inclusivity and creative curiosity that most defines her work.
“That’s just the way I roll,” smiles Kristín. “It’s certainly not the easiest way to go. But what really turns me on is taking on things I’ve never done before. It keeps me alive, and in a place where I feel like my artistry is expanding. And that’s completely by choice. I could have made things easy for myself by following the momentum at various different points in my journey. But I’m really happy things are exactly the way are.”
Kristín pauses, and a smile creeps over her face. “I actually have this strange feeling that it’s all just beginning,” she finishes. “That so far, this was school. And now, we do it.”
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